Saturday, March 19, 2011

Blogs

Last week, we were creating three sets of blogs for three classes. It's a bit of a challenge to keep three different lists of blogs. (I've updated my blog roll utility http://www.publishproject.com/blogrollgen_form.html. It now generates an HTML table with the list of blogs.)

I'm impressed that a number of students in my LIB 200 capstone have already been blogging for other classes. I have a really good group of students. I almost could run an old-fashioned class without all the group work that I always do. (I won't be doing this, but our discussions have moved really well so far.) Another interesting accident was a student who named her blog 'profdraganseng101.blogspot.com'--a no-no, obviously. That's the last thing I need is a student writing in my name!!

Overall, I really see the advantages of blogs for writing classes. (I don't understand how I could substitute Facebook or ePortfolio.) It seems to me that Web 2.0 is tending toward monopoly--originally, if you had been following its developments, you were supposed to be able to connect information between websites (called mashups) through available 'APIs' or widgets for the web-savvy. (There were even conferences and events where web developers competed to create interesting application on the fly mixing together the services from different websites.) Now it seems the idea of individual websites and separate web tools (this was called 'software as a service') is under pressure. Instead we have the monolithic 'platform' (think Google and Facebook) and the 'app' (through an iPad or an Android device), and 'curated' notion of content. I think in business and so forth, students should know they wouldn't be 'working' in Facebook. They would be more likely to be collaborating on professional documents on Google Docs or Microsoft Office Live in the cloud. Back when I was a technology journalist, we called this the SOHO (Small Office Home Office) space. Today, even Fortune 500 companies are using Google Docs. So obviously, you do not need to create documents using desktop software, but I would argue that while posting thoughts on a wall, etc. or tweeting is an excellent way to communicate, it's not creating those valuable (yes, high-stakes) documents that are still used in academic and business settings. I think this is all 'mashed up' when we talk of Web 2.0. There are a range of Web 2.0 technologies and styles of writing. We do a disservice to students if we don't occasionally point out the difference.

Last, on a more positive note, I am presenting on using blogs in a creative writing class at a roundtable on creative writing pedagogy this Wed. in Rosemarie's Room in E-103 at 2:30 pm (if anyone wants to drop by). This event is sponsored by the English Department's Creative Writing Committee. To prepare for this talk, I clicked through some strong responses from my ENG 274 Creative Non-Fiction Workshop class from last Fall. What a good group of writers! My short presentation (10 min.) is on using blogs to get students to read and respond to course readings. (In creative writing classes, there aren't formal papers, midterms or finals.) Instead, it's the students' own work. The blogs really worked to get students to write on course readings. It introduced some accountability and let them choose the readings they were interested in. I also received some excellent feedback for our blogs, readings and the entire workshop.

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